The Briefing 10-21-15

The Briefing 10-21-15

The Briefing

October 21, 2015

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Wednesday, October 20, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Trudeau made Prime Minister in election that reveals radical worldview shift in Canada

Huge news across America’s border to the north as Canada has elected a new liberal majority and that means a new liberal Prime Minister. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper thus comes to the end of his nine years as a conservative Prime Minister and in his place is the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau is the son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was one of the most formative figures in history of Canada and one of the most polarizing figures as well. The elder Trudeau was one of the most charismatic political figures of the 1960s into the 1980s. As DeNeen Brown for the Washington Post reports, he was one of most interesting figures on the world stage and the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the eldest of three sons born to Pierre Trudeau and the former Margaret Sinclair, a woman three decades, his younger who was his wife, at least for a period of time. They divorced when Justin was age 6; he was then raised by his father. As Brown says,

“The elder Trudeau was a public intellectual who served as prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and, after a brief break, from 1980 to 1984.”

In many ways Pierre Trudeau is considered something of the John F. Kennedy of Canada, a dashing political figure who was also a major figure on the cultural and political left. Trudeau enjoyed dating celebrities after his marriage to Margaret Trudeau, he was known for dating celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, he was also known for championing many of the liberal causes that later politicians were to adopt including multiculturalism. Justin Trudeau’s election, now coming as the son the Pierre Trudeau is by no small measure an indication of the fact that Canada is not only ready for a political change, it is also ready to welcome what amounts to its first political dynasty and make no mistake, this is a major worldview and intellectual shift for the nation of Canada, it is a massive political shift.

Stephen Harper’s nine years as prime minister will set something of a record for modern Canada. It goes back of course to Trudeau, who served longer but it also points to the fact that the nine years of Harper’s administration largely overlapped the American presidency of Barack Obama and those two did not see eye to eye on much. It is expected that Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister will be politically and in many other ways closer to President Obama. But that raises a larger issue; we’ve been watching a succession of nations, particularly in Europe swerve to the left. The greatest illustration of that has been Greece, but those nations, are at least geographically and also culturally at a significant distance from the United States. Not so with Canada and we should note that this election this week in Canada moves that nation far to the left to where it had been before. It is a political revolution of sorts in Canada. As a matter fact, just two weeks ago Justin Trudeau’s liberal party was polling third in the electoral polls, but when the election was over on Monday it was clear that the Liberal party had not only won a plurality but they had one enough seats to form a government outright. That was unexpected just a matter of days ago, although the polls had begun to show momentum towards a liberal party.

This is a decisive loss for the conservative party and it is a very decisive realignment of Canadian politics. This was made abundantly clear for example in an editorial that celebrated Trudeau’s election, published by the editorial board of the New York Times. The board stated,

“The sweeping victory of Justin Trudeau in Canada’s elections on Monday shows how ready Canadians were to emerge from a decade under the Conservative government of the secretive and combative Stephen Harper.”

The editors went on to say,

“Mr. Trudeau clearly benefited from voters’ memories of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who rose to power 47 years ago on a platform of liberal reforms and a wave of personal popularity that came to be dubbed “Trudeaumania.” To those memories, Justin Trudeau, 43, added his own charisma and the promise that, as prime minister, he would return Canadians to the tradition of liberal and humanitarian values that his father championed.”

Let’s just think for a minute about the kind of language that is used in this opening paragraph of the New York Times editorial. First of all, the conservative Prime Minister is described only in very dark terms, the secretive and combative Stephen Harper. Meanwhile, Trudeau and his father are discussed as representing liberal and humanitarian values. You can read that journalistically as the fact that the editorial board is ecstatically happy that Justin Trudeau and his party have one this liberal victory and are writing this liberal tide and to read this editorial in the language that is used about this development in Canada leads one immediately to suspect, indeed to affirm that the editors of the New York Times would like to see the same cultural tide take place here in the United States. But one of the most interesting things in this editorial is the forthrightness with which the editorial board of the New York Times talks about Mr. Trudeau’s agenda,

“Mr. Trudeau, by contrast, has pledged, among other things, to legalize marijuana, revise the antiterrorism laws, stop the purchase of F-35 fighter jets from the United States and end Canada’s combat role in the American-led fight against the Islamic State.”

Now just consider those words. You’re looking here at a man who was just elected rather convincingly, the Prime Minister of Canada by electing his party to power and Canadians have elected as the reigning power in that country, as the reigning political party, a party headed by a man who not only pledged to legalize marijuana, but also to liberalize the anti-terrorism laws, to stop the purchase of modern armaments, particularly the F-35 from the United States and these are the most concerning words, I quote them again,

“End Canada’s combat role in the American-led fight against the Islamic State.”

Now one of the things we need to note is that many liberal democracies outside the United States have depended, especially ever since the end of World War II, on what’s called the canopy of American power. It is the exertion of American military might and American political resolve that has offered so many of these other liberal democracies the opportunity to shirk their own defense responsibilities and act as if they are not living in a dangerous world. And now Canadians right across our northern border have elected a party to power and that means a Prime Minister who has announced that one of his chief goals and policy decisions will be to sever Canada’s role in what the New York Times editorial board called, and this is also very interesting,

“The American-led fight against the Islamic state.”

So this means that Canadians voted basically to let the world go at least on this issue and even as Trudeau said that he will allow certain military advisers to continue work in the area, he is severing ties with what is now known to be an American-led effort against the Islamic state, which means that Canadians basically just voted to allow the continued expansion and influence of an Islamic caliphate, that is not only of course terrorizing the world under its direct control, but reaching far across the oceans and recruiting new members of the Islamic State militia and in terms of its battle of jihad from not only European nations and not only the United States, but quite particularly Canada.

As I said, this massive political shift in Canada is taking place far closer to us, of course, than those political shift that we have noted in Europe and beyond. So we’re looking at two nations that share far beyond economics. We’re looking at two nations that share the North American landmass and one of the things that we’ve noted over time is that Canada, in terms of its culture and prevailing worldview has more closely tracked continental Europe than its continental partner, that is the United States of America and that has become very clear in the election on Monday. The development this week indicates that Canada in terms of many worldview issues which is already a nation decidedly less churchly and decidedly more secular, which is already a nation that has moved in so many of these directions in parallel with Europe. It is now a nation that has elected such a decidedly liberal government that it is celebrated by the editorial board of the New York Times in these terms.

There are a couple of other lessons before we leave the Canadian election. In a statement made to the New York Times, Stephen Harper had said,

“A national election is not a popularity contest.”

It’s interesting to note that the Canadian conservative party had held on to power for nine years without ever achieving an electoral majority. That’s because in the parliamentary system, the division of parties can often lead to a coalition that simply means that the party that gains the strongest coalition can elect the Prime Minister to office. We need to note that as you’re looking at the election now of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister and that’s by the party not directly by the Canadian people, you’re looking at a stronger leadership profile than Stephen Harper ever had with his conservative party. We’re also looking at something else; we’re looking at how a parliamentary democracy is different from the representative democracy of the American constitutional Republic. They are two different forms of government. They are both Democratic. But Canadians do not vote for the head of government, for the Prime Minister, they vote instead for a party by voting for their local Member of Parliament and the party that has the largest number of those members of Parliament and is eventually able to cobble together a majority to elect a Prime Minister, that’s the party in power. In the United States, we have no division between the head of state and head of government that is the President of the United States. And Americans elect candidates for president, but we also need to remember the electoral college, which is for the United States, a constitutional firewall against the dangers of an election that might be unrepresentative and that affirms the fact that in the American constitutional system state still matters in terms of the electoral college. It’s a very interesting lesson now to observe what’s taking place across our northern border. And as we’ve pointed out at many turns with developments in Canada, we’re looking at a nation with whom we share such a long and peaceful border and for that we should be very thankful. But we’re also looking at a nation that has more closely paralleled Europe in cultural terms than the United States on many important issues and the election this week underlines that fact once again. And all that takes on an even greater significance when we put it in the context of the looming 2016 presidential election here in the United States where many people are asking the question, will a similar swerve to the left now characterize the American political experiment as well as what we see this week in Canada.

Part II

Paul Ryan's candidacy for Speaker of House will test ability of Republicans to unify

Next, one huge issue about the future political direction of the United States won’t wait until 2016 and that has to do with the election of a new speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Last night news broke that on Tuesday afternoon, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin had moved considerably closer towards allowing his name to go forward to be elected speaker of the house. As Mike DeBonis and Robert Costa of the Washington Post reported,

“Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) moved closer to the House speakership Tuesday, telling fellow Republicans that he would consider taking the job if he could be assured that the caucus would unite behind him.

Ryan faced his colleagues — and his political future — at a private evening meeting of House Republicans in the Capitol basement. He said he would be willing to step into the speaker’s role, ending weeks of GOP leadership turmoil, as long as disparate [and we should note arguing] factions moved in the coming days to support him.”

This is going to be a very interesting unfolding story. Paul Ryan was of course in 2012, the Republican nominee as Vice President of the United States. He is a widely admired tactician and he is known as a master of the United States budget. His current role as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful posts in Washington, and there was good reason that Paul Ryan had seemed reticent to allow his name to go forward as Speaker. He had indicated several issues of his concern, first and foremost his wife and small children. He indicated that he would not play the traditional political role within his party that was most often expected of the Speaker, being gone every weekend in order to help the election and reelection prospects of Republican candidates all across the United States. Ryan has said that he will take the speakership, but as the speakership not in terms of that kind of electoral responsibility. Ryan was also concerned about the fact that there had been factions within the Republican Party that had largely led to the downfall of the resigning and retiring Speaker of the House, John Boehner of Ohio, and yet there seemed to be a great deal of momentum behind Paul Ryan. In terms of the budget and fiscal conservatism there is no doubt that he is the master of the budget and he has an enormous amount of clout and credibility amongst his fellow Republicans. But there are looming issues out there and one of them is the leading issue of how the governance of the House is going to take place. What rules will the leadership operate by? That’s going to be one of most interesting questions. Because in order to get the support of some of the most conservative members of the Republican caucus in the house, Ryan might have to agree to in effect weaken the Speaker position at least somewhat in order to allow members of the house to have greater influence in the choice of party leaders and most particularly on the urgent issue of who will serve as chairman of those very important house committees.

It was interesting also that in speaking to the Republican caucus yesterday evening, Paul Ryan said,

“I’m willing to take arrows in the chest, but not in the back.”

Just on the position of the integrity of leadership that is certainly not too much to ask. Just as we learned a very great deal about Canada in recent days, in coming days this week we’re likely to learn a great deal about the future of the United States Congress in particular the United States House of Representatives.

Part III

Surge of cannabis industry in Colorado illustrates success in mainstreaming marijuana

Next, yesterday I was passing through Denver, Colorado, on my way by air to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And in the Denver airport, I picked up yesterday’s edition of the Denver Post where I found this headline,

“Grows demand space, so space demands grow.”

It’s a story as you might’ve inferred a story about marijuana and it is a story with staggering statistics, I assume that’s why the Denver Post put it on the front page. Emilie Rusch, writing for the Post writes,

“Your nose isn’t lying: One in 11 industrial buildings in central Denver is full of marijuana.”

That’s the lead.

“One in 11 industrial buildings in central Denver is [to use the expression in the lead paragraph] full of marijuana.”

She goes on to say,

“The state’s cannabis industry occupies at least 3.7 million square feet of industrial space in Denver, clustered in areas of older warehouse stock, including the Interstate 25-Interstate 70 junction, Montbello, central Denver and along the Santa Fe Drive corridor in southwest Denver.”

And what we come to understand in this story is that the industry’s appetite for real estate is voracious with marijuana cultivation gobbling up more than a third, that is more than a third, 35.8 percent of all industrial space leased in Denver during the most recent five-year period. Now just consider that, you’re talking about five years, five years in which 35.8 percent of all the corporate space leased in central Colorado, in particular in Denver has been leased for the marijuana industry, 35.8 percent. Now you understand why this made the front page.

Joey Bunch writing an accompanying article in the Post tells us the Colorado racked up $70 million in sales of recreational and medical pot last year, nearly $700,000 in tax revenue plus $13 million in licenses and fees. The industry is expected to top $1 billion this year. Just consider those numbers; once again, they’re shocking. We’re talking about a radically expanding business in Colorado that is not going to stay in Colorado and that becomes abundantly clear. Later in the article we read the question remains whether the economic argument comes in louder than Republicans concerns about the moral and public health implications as well as a view that the 10th amendment to the United States Constitution gives states the right to decide. Now keep in mind that the state of Ohio recently indicated it’s going to allow the same question about the legalization of marijuana on that statewide ballot as well.

We have noted how the issue of the legalization of marijuana has tracked the issue of the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage. We’re looking at a major moral shift in this country and as we often note a worldview explanation helps us to understand that these are not isolated developments. They are all the products of the same fundamental change, a change far more fundamental than merely morality as if you can say merely morality. We’re talking about a basic shift in how many Americans understand the most basic questions of right and wrong and in order to explain how marijuana has become mainstream a really interesting article needs to be cited that appeared this week in The Economist of London, it is also datelined in Denver. The headline in this article is,

“Mother of all highs.”

The subhead,

“A determined push to win over moms is under way.”

As The Economist reports,

“At a soirée on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, one woman greets her fellow guests with a delicate bowl of vanilla sea-salt caramels, each one laced with marijuana. “It’s quite subtle,” she insists. “I just keep a few in my bag for when I’m feeling stressed out.” Over light chat about family and work, the group quickly cleaned up the bowl.”

They went on to report,

“It is a scene Americans will be accustomed to by about 2025, according to Jazmin Hupp, head of Denver’s Women Grow society. “Once moms are on board, that’s it,” she explains, taking a drag on a hot pink e-cigarette filled with cannabis oil. Her battle cry explains the recent surge in products such as vegan weed bonbons, cannabis kale crisps, cannabis spiced almonds and “high tea”.

This article is another key indicator of how a moral revolution takes place. Here you have The Economist writing from London, a news story datelined in Denver, Colorado, telling us that the marijuana industry intends to become mainstream and they will know when their product is mainstream says this article when suburban moms use marijuana in public without embarrassment. Now, according to this article, the target for this mainstream acceptance is the year 2025, but we have to consider that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as we have noted prognostications about the velocity of moral change have turned out to be wildly off and there is every reason to expect that this revolution will accelerate even faster than the revolution on the legalization of same-sex marriage, and there we’re talking about a massive moral change in just one generation. The fact that they are already finding moms carrying marijuana laced sea salt caramels in their purses for when their stressed-out tells us that this isn’t going to wait until 2025 and by the time you reach the end of the article in The Economist, they’ve conceded as much.

The new marketing plan for marijuana is not directed at doped out young men, but rather it stressed out suburban women, in particular moms. The marketing plan is transparent and it’s brilliant. If you can get mom to smoke marijuana, anybody can smoke marijuana. If suburban moms are taking marijuana, whether by smoking it or more likely in edibles as they’re waiting in the carpool lane, then anybody can and presumably will take marijuana and use it just as the industry intends. We’re talking about an industry as this headline story in the Denver Post just told us that is now taking up 35.8 percent of all new commercial leases in the city of Denver. We’re talking about an industry that is going to do $1 billion in business in Colorado just this coming year by estimations. We’re talking about a major moral shift and it’s reflected not only in the statistics in that headline story in the Post, but even more subtly and perhaps more convincingly in the marketing plan that is discussed in The Economist.

The interesting thing for us to note is that that caught the attention of an international economic news magazine that is headquartered in London, England. That tells us the story is bigger than just picking up of marijuana headline on the front page of the Denver Post in the Denver airport. This is a huge story and what happens in Denver isn’t going to stay in Denver. In this moral revolution, though focused on marijuana will never stay limited to marijuana. Just as the legalization of same-sex marriage will not be a moral revolution that ends with same-sex marriage. Marijuana has often rightly been described as a gateway drug to other forms of drugs and narcotics and other forms of pharmaceutical misuse and we’re looking here at a society that is now saying that if you’re stressed mom what you need to do is get a sea salt caramel laced with marijuana. The fact that that scenario is presented in such straightforward terms and for that matter, commercial economic and marketing terms is of immense moral significance and we dare not miss it.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to I’ll be presenting the Herschel H. Hobbs lecture on Baptist identity this morning at Oklahoma Baptist University. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to see some of you there.

I’m speaking to you from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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